Current Issue: December 2017
Recent advances in both the biological and computer sciences have spurred researchers to pay greater attention to the role of computa-tional methods in the broad sphere of cancer research. Specific focus has been given to the demonstrated benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning approaches when compared to current methods for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. An artificial neural network is a form of AI based on algorithms that mimic human brain function. Neural networks are especially useful in the interpretation of nonlinear data, which is commonly encountered in biological research studies. Neural networking technologies may be used to diag-nose cancer more easily and effectively than traditional methods as they decrease the need for invasive procedures and interpreting the results of imaging methods. Additionally, neural networks have been trained to analyze individual prognoses and treatment plans with an accuracy comparable to that of experienced physicians. Advances such as these aid both medical professionals and patients in making optimal health care decisions. As large-scale computing initiatives – such as the recent Microsoft project aiming to “solve” cancer with computer science – move forward, it has become increasingly apparent that the future of medical research will involve technologies such as neural networking and other forms of AI.
Immunotherapy has become one of the most popular topics of re-search in the biomedical sciences and shown promise in treating can-cer due to its high target specificity and remission rates in clinical tri-als. Current cancer treatments involve transplantation of donor organs, which relies on limited amounts of donors and may result in immune rejection, and drugs, which are highly toxic to the body. However, the potential of the current methods pale in comparison to the prospect of immunotherapy.
Zoology involves studying the diverse spectrum of organisms in the animal kingdom, but Dr. Justin Gerlach finds his attention especially drawn to snails. Having completed his degree in Zoology at Wadham College, Oxford with a subsequent Ph.D. there in 1994, Dr. Gerlach continued his studies by moving to the University of Cambridge. Since then, he has also taken on the role of coordinator of the Terrestrial and Freshwater Invertebrate Red List Authority. Dr. Gerlach recently returned from an expedition to the Society Islands and has kindly agreed to discuss his findings and his life as a zoologist.